Sustainable We Forum #4: Where Does the Sun Shine on Renewable Energy?

How are Minneapolis community gardens going to make a difference? What should we know about the developers? The options?

“We are well served by having the educated, aware, thoughtful and passionate individuals we have in Minneapolis who want to collectively do in a better way. How are we designing a sustainable environment together?”

Forum #4

Our city-wide series of “Sustainable We” conversations continued January 19 with a panel discussion at the community room of Gandhi Mahal restaurant in the Longfellow neighborhood.

Is this a good time to invest in community solar gardens? What new technologies are coming in renewable energies? Are low-income communities able to participate in cost savings opportunities?

A short video clip from audio material below:

Questions We Explored

Practical Concerns

Social Issues

  • How are low-income communities getting “in” on the savings — if stronger credit scores are required, are there options for those struggling with debt to get these reductions in energy costs? Timothy DenHerder-Thomas and Matt Privratsky responded.
  • How is job training factoring in — are local developers able to train new green workers from diverse communities? Timothy DenHerder-Thomas and Pat Wier responded.
  • Why doesn’t the new Vikings stadium capture solar power? Are there ways we can get involved as a community in increasing solar energy from commercial rooftops? Matt Privratsky, Pat Wier and Timothy DenHerder-Thomas responded.
  • How does local community advocacy and activism play a role in highlighting a new energy future? Lee Samelson of Community Power responded.
  • How did Boulder “go local” with its energy production — is that an option here? (separate story coming)

The Big Picture overview

  • What are the quick bullet point Pros and Cons of solar energy in Minnesota right now? All featured speakers responded before we began a 45-minute group discussion.

Participants Included

Co-host Gabriella Brune was born and raised in Anchorage, Alaska. She has a recent BA in Environmental Studies from the College of St. Benedict and did her undergraduate thesis on Community Solar.

Co-host Kerry Wang earned his BS in Chemical Engineering at Rice University in Houston, TX, and is now a Ph.D. candidate in Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Minnesota. Kerry has been a lifelong environmentalist and has taken a strong interest in the non-technical tools – sociology, policy, economics, etc. – that can be used to create a healthier planet and more equitable society.

Special Topic of Conversation

  • Timothy DenHerder-Thomas

    Timothy DenHerder-Thomas

    Timothy DenHerder-Thomas, Cooperative Energy Futures explained the less-talked-about community solar garden model being built with Shiloh Temple that not only includes low-income community members in its equation, but uses local workforce trained by Just Community Solar Coalition, affiliated with the Minnesota Interfaith Power & Light. See this quick video for an explanation of the business model.